Helping Your 11th or 12th Grader with Career Preparation and “Fit”
Page 1 of 3As the parent of an eleventh or twelfth grader with learning disabilities (LD), how confident are you about your teen’s plans for the future? Does your teen have realistic job or career goals? Has your teen found enjoyable activities that he is enthusiastic about pursuing as an adult? Has your teen held volunteer or paid part-time jobs? If so, can he see any of his jobs leading to a career that will allow him to be an independent, working adult? As you well know, a learning disability does not just affect school performance. You have probably seen some of the emotional fallout teens have to weather when they are “different” in some way. Teens with LD, even those eligible for standard diplomas, may suffer from low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy. They may look to the future with dread. They may be lonely, anxious, or depressed.
Now that your teen is in the last two years of high school, what kinds of help and support can you provide as he or she prepares for the future? First, ask yourself what “success” for your teen means to you. Does it mean the same thing to your teen? Now’s the time to redefine success based on your teen’s unique strengths and interests. Keep in mind that success involves good health and strong relationships, as well as satisfying work.
Four Stages of Career DevelopmentWhatever your teen’s path to the world of work -- through postsecondary education or training, or directly to a job -- it can be helpful to consider four stages of career development. This article will consider the third and fourth stages. A companion article, “Helping Your Ninth or Tenth Grader with Career Awareness and Exploration,” offers suggestions about the first two stages. Despite the division between articles -- and their targeted ages -- these stages aren’t necessarily sequential and frequently overlap.
Stage 3: Career Preparation Means Finding Some AnswersIt’s time for your teen to identify a small number of careers or jobs that look interesting and achievable, based on her developing self-awareness as a person with many facets, one of which is a learning disability. Students sometimes neglect a convenient resource for career planning: the school’s guidance department. Guidance counselors have an array of career and vocational aptitude tests and interest assessments. They can help you and your teen understand test results and set realistic goals. Further, guidance counselors have lots of information about postsecondary education. They can tell you about academic and training schools that offer services for students with learning disabilities.
Your Teen Already Has Some AnswersBy eleventh or twelfth grade, your teen’s experiences in school will provide valuable career guidance. School records -- grades, test scores, special education assessments, and teachers’ comments -- can help your teen interpret his or her strengths and needs. Your teen may also have a portfolio of work samples accumulated throughout high school. The collection can assist you and your teen as you formulate a clear progress report based on skill development. If your teen doesn’t have a portfolio, junior year is a good time to start one.
The last two years of high school are also the time to request specific feedback from adults who know your teen well: teachers, tutors, supervisors of part-time jobs or volunteer work, coaches, mentors, counselors, and so on. Encourage your teen to ask these people their perceptions of his or her strengths, challenges, and skills. A trusted guidance counselor can help your teen with these valuable interviews and, perhaps, with getting letters of recommendation.